Zero tillage development in tropical Brazil

The story of a succesful NGO activity


John N. Landers
Tropical Natural Resources Management Specialist
Wageningen University and Research Centre
Wageningen, The Netherlands

The designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

ISBN 92-5-104672-7

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. Applications for such permission, with a statement of the purpose and extent of the reproduction, should be addressed to the Director, Information Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy.

FAO 2001




Abbreviations and Acronyms

Chapter 1

Chapter 2
The Case Study

Background to the Founding of the NGO and its Early Activities

Chapter 3
Analytical Discussion of Specific Aspects

The Adoption Process of Zero Tillage

The mechanisms Involved.

Factors Impeding Adoption

Sources of Resistance to Adoption of Zero Tillage as Official Policy

Changes in Rural Credit and Extension Focus.

Clubes Amigos da Terra.

Developing and Disseminating Technical Information

On-farm Research and Pilot Projects

Applicability of ZTAT experience to small farmers.

Growth of Zero Tillage Promoted by Technical Events and Training

Technical Events


Promoting Partnerships for ZTAT Activities

Financial Aspects of ZTAT Operations.

Policy and Environmental Considerations

Reducing the Pressure to Clear New Land

International Reverberations

Notes on How to Incorporate Zero Tillage into Rural Development Projects

Chapter 4
Future Challenges

Reversion to Conventional Tillage

Decline in Second Phase Activities of CATs

How to Convince the Environmentalists to Support ZTAT?

Fund Raising

How Indispensable are Key Personnel?

What is Needed to Expand ZT Concepts to the Semi-arid Region of Brazil?

Chapter 5
Further Reading


Appendix 1
The Cerrado

Appendix 2
The Evolution of Zero Tillage in Brazil

Appendix 3
Functions of Crop Residues in Zero Tillage

Appendix 4
Pre-Conditions For Adoption Of Zero Tillage

Appendix 5
Principal Zero and Minimum Tillage Techniques in Brazil

Appendix 6
Cover and Winter Second Crops

Appendix 7
Current Organizational Structure of ZTAT

Appendix 8
Institutional framework for SINRM in Brazil

Appendix 9
Example of CAT Participation in On-Farm Research

Appendix 10
Economic Aspects of Zero Tillage

Appendix 11


Table 1

Mechanisms Involved in Zero Tillage Adoption in the Brazilian Tropics, in Approximate Order of Importance.

Table 2

Responses to the Question "Why don't farmers adopt Zero Tillage?"

Table 3

Responses to the Question "What are the topics on which you need more information?"

Table 4

Priorities for Technical Information According to Class of Respondent

Table 5

A Comparison between the Environmental Impact of Zero Tillage/Conservation Agriculture and that of Urban Areas in Brazil.


Box 1: The Features of Zero Tillage/Conservation Agriculture

Box 2: A Condensed History of ZTAT

Box 3: Why the slow research response to tropical ZT (up to 1995)?

Box 4: Historical Note

Box 5: Benefits Generated for Society by Adoption of Zero Tillage

Box 6: Sustainable Integration of Natural Resources Management (SINRM)

Box 7: Common Expectations and Actions Required for ZT in East/Central Africa

Box 8: What the Farmer Loses by Working his Soil


Figure 1:

Expansion of the Zero-Tillage Area in Brazil and in the Cerrado (wet/dry tropical savannah region).

Figure 2

The Principal De-compaction Zone for Adoption of Zero Tillage

Figure 3

A Management route to lower use of agricultural chemicals

Figure 4

ZT is the Gateway to Sustainability

Figure 5

Current organizational structure of ZTAT